In my September/October 2022 editorial “Recovering Creativity,” I discussed resurrecting the slide deck for my keynote talk: “Just Your Ordinary Average Programmer. Lessons Learned After 30 (33) years in the software field.” By the time you read this, I'll have delivered these keynotes at both Prairie Dev Con Regina 2022 and Prairie Dev Con Winnipeg 2022. It thrilled me that these slides gave me new source of inspiration and helped re-ignite the creativity that I felt was missing. I'm hoping that my keynotes deliver for conference attendees and are informative, inspiring, and include a dash of entertainment. Let me give you a little preview of what I plan to cover.

Lesson Zero

The first item of note is the title change. The original date of these conferences was back in 2020. Well, we all know what happened in 2020. Better late than never, I suppose.

LESSON: Avoid pandemics. Go figure.

Lesson One

My regular readers are aware of one fact about me: I'm an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and have been for most of my life. One of my first life goals was to become a writer. Specifically, I had a goal of writing for TSR (the company that owned D&D) and I was on the right track, having published my first article while a junior in high school.

When it was time to choose my course of study, I chose classes that would help me accomplish the goal of becoming a writer. Figure 1 illustrates the classes I chose during my first two semesters of community college. My first semester focused on any class that would help me further my career with one outlier: BA110 Business Software Applications. After my first semester, I changed my focus. I enjoyed my BA110 class and decided to explore technology classes like BA131 (Business Data Processing) and what I would soon find to be my nemesis (BA199 - MS-DOS). After this second semester, I decided to change course.

Figure 1: My first two semester's report card
Figure 1: My first two semester's report card

LESSON: Keep your options open. Life may take you in unexpected and interesting directions.

Lesson Two

I decided to alter my focus to tech during the second semester of college, though this nearly didn't happen. There would be one class that nearly ended my time in tech: BA199 MS-DOS. Yes, that MS-DOS (version 3.0 to be exact). Our lesson book was by author Van Wolverton, whose book was important for anyone desiring a basic intro to this tech. I read this book thoroughly and enthusiastically. My problem was when I went to take the first class on this topic: I failed miserably! I couldn't get the cryptic DIR, COPY, CD, EDLIN, REM, MKDIR, etc. commands to work properly.

This did not compute. I was strong reader and put in the time, and yet still crashed and burned. I consulted my advisor, Art Sanchez, for recommendations, and he asked me one question: Are you coming in and doing the labs? He already knew the answer, “No,” and set me on the correct course. I started attending the labs and I soon went from zero to HERO! I was getting this DOS stuff. Check out that A- grade!

Now let's flash forward a few decades and I'm helping my son Isaiah with his CS homework. He's struggling to get the answers for an online quiz, and I ask him: “Have you run this code somewhere to see what it does?” Just like Art, I knew the answer was no. We opened the tool they used in his Java class and ran each example. Guess what? We figured out the correct answers and Isaiah learned an important lesson: Working in tech is an applied science. You only learn this stuff by doing it.

LESSON: You cannot “book learn” how to code.

Lesson Three

In Lesson One, you were reminded that I wanted to become a writer for Dungeons and Dragons. To be honest, this goal never left. I always loved writing, especially about my favorite game. I soon realized that what I really loved was the act of writing. It didn't take long for me to continue writing, albeit about a different subject matter: tech. After working in my field for several years, the writing bug became all-consuming. I was off to the races. My first article was published in 1992 and over the ensuing 30 years, I've written dozens of articles, course materials on programming, 100+ editorials, and had my words published in about 10 books. The bug never left, and I'm very thankful for the lesson.

LESSON: Never let your dreams die. They might just take a bit longer to achieve than you expected.

Lesson 4

This last lesson will be a bit meta. You see, this editorial was written for multiple purposes. The first purpose is to provide the editorial for this issue of CODE Magazine. I've clearly accomplished this purpose, as you're reading these words now. See? I told you this was going to be meta! You're reading these words, so therefore they exist.

The second purpose is that I really needed to finish my keynote, and this seemed a good place to explore and codify some of my keynote ideas. I decided to “kill two birds with one stone.” I could round out my ideas for the keynote while getting some other real work done. That's the final lesson.

LESSON: Recycling is important.

Recycling is Important

There's an old saying “good artists borrow; great artists steal.” I'd change this to good presenters/teachers/writers recycle. Is that meta or what?

As always, I hope that one or more of these stories/lessons provide you with source of inspiration, information, or that they're simply entertaining. Thank you for being on this journey with me!